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In dealing with the native population, the principle adopted in Sarawak has been to govern through the agency of the hereditary chiefs and head men of the villages. A single European resident, in charge of a district of vast extent, can at most exercise a general supervision. He has an authority with the people, because it is known that he can at any moment call in an overwhelming force to punish insubordination and crime. It is the policy of Sarawak to keep the European in the background, and to show the utmost consideration to the hereditary chiefs of the Dyaks and Malays.

Much expense has been saved by this simple method of administration, and the independence of external control. When a colony is subject to a department responsible to Parliament, correspondence is necessarily extended, and the materials for returns and reports must be accumulated, registered, and preserved, as they certainly need not be under the personal administration of the Rajah.

The exceptional advantage which Sarawak enjoys is also its weakest point. History records no instance of a government permanently maintained, from generation to generation, on a purely personal system. Sooner or later power devolves on a successor unable or indisposed to wield it, and when a strain is put on the weak link the chain breaks. This is the event sooner or later to be apprehended at Sarawak, and in view of which it is so desirable to place the country more definitely than at present under British protection. Direct intervention in the administration would not be called for, so long as the present excellent order could be maintained by the local government. It is to be hoped that an understanding may soon be established with Rajah Brooke, and that the occasion may then be afforded for giving some public recognition of the services rendered to the cause of humanity by the spirited family who have created Sarawak.

Passing along an extensive line of uninteresting coast, two days' steaming brought us to Labuan. We had been swept to the northeast by a strong current, and only made the island by means of astronomical observations. Labuan is a small island about half the size of the Isle of Wight. At its north-eastern extremity is a chain of hills. The shore is surrounded by level plains of grass. The centre of the island is undulating.

Labuan was made a British colony in the expectation that the mines of coal, which had been partially opened out, would yield an abundant supply; and that an island with a magnificent anchorage and productive coal beds would become an important coaling station. In this anticipation the complete staff of a Crown colony was organised in Labuan. A governor was appointed, with a liberal salary, and placed in a spacious residence surrounded by a beautiful park. The governor was assisted by forty functionaries of all sorts,


and the might of England was asserted by the presence of a garrison. Unhappily, the foundations, upon which this elaborate official organisation rested, proved utterly unsound. The coal mines have been a dead failure. The edifice too hastily built up has crumbled to the dust. The forty functionaries are now represented by ten pensioners. There are two chaplains on the pension list, and the funds of Labuan are too low to pay an officiating clergyman in addition. The present English officials are Governor Leys, who is also consul for Borneo, and Lieutenant Hamilton, retired from the navy. This energetic officer acts as master attendant, postmaster, colonial secretary, treasurer, magistrate, inspector of police, inspector of the prison, chief commissioner of woods, and colonial engineer. In all these capacities he corresponds from himself to himself, and carefully copies and registers his letters.

The hour has evidently arrived when the farce of an independent Crown colony should cease. Labuan should be merged in the administration of Rajah Brooke, or the North Borneo Company, under the protectorate of Great Britain, but without further troubling the Colonial Office with the details of its internal administration. Its population consists mainly of Chinese, and their numbers are few.

From Labuan we crossed the bay, a distance of ten miles, and ascended the Brunei river to the town of that name. At the mouth of the river the Muara Company are working a seam of coal twentysix feet in thickness. The managers, Messrs. Cowie, are anxious to have the command of more capital. They seem to be engaged in a promising affair. We took in twenty-five tons of their coal in the 'Sunbeam,' and were entirely satisfied with its quality. The Muara mines have not escaped notice in various quarters. Quite recently two Russian cruisers visited Brunei, making careful sketches and plans, and announcing an early intention of using the harbour as a coaling station for their China squadron.

The Brunei river flows between fresh green hills, richly wooded, presenting an agreeable and diversified landscape. Brunei city is the oldest town in Borneo, and by the natives has always been recognised as the capital of this large island. The town is built on piles. The only communication from house to house is by water. The market is held in boats. Commerce with China and Singapore and the intervening coasts was once flourishing. The river was full of junks from the celestial shores. But the commerce of those days was destroyed by piracy, and nothing now remains of its numerous fleets.

Great skill in working metals once existed at Brunei. Guns were cast in bronze of varied and picturesque design. Little of the art yet lingers in the place.

We called on the Sultan of Brunei. It would be hard to find a more feeble-looking ruler, or a group of men less prepossessing than

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